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close this bookAlternative Techniques - For Teaching about HIV/AIDS in the Classroom (Peace Corps, 1996, 205 p.)
close this folderStories
View the documentCome sit by me
View the documentChildren and the AIDS virus
View the documentChildren and the AIDS virus (Supplement for older students)
View the documentThe story of four friends

Children and the AIDS virus

Look in the mirror. What do you see?
A good-looking kid?
Yes, that's you!

Look closer. Your body has different parts - a head, arms, and legs. These parts have smaller parts. Your arms have hands, your hands have fingers, and the fingers have nails.

Look even closer. Can you see fine hairs on the back of your hand? These hairs are made up of even smaller parts called cells. A cell is so tiny that you cannot see it without a microscope.

Your whole body is made up of billions of living cells. Your skin, your nails, your muscles, bones, blood, even your heart - every single part of you are cells.

All around you, outside your body, live tiny things called microorganisms. They are invisible like cells. Microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, are often harmless. But some of them can make you ill if they invade your body.

Inside your body, millions of special cells are ready to fight off invaders. Your fighter cells protect you. They are your body's natural defense system.

Let's find out about your fighter cells and one of their enemies, viruses.

Do you know what happened the last time you had a cold?

A cold virus sneaked inside your nose or throat and quickly made more viruses. But your fighter cells discovered the invaders and attacked them. All this activity upset your body and made you sick.

Luckily, your body's defense system was strong. Your fighter cells killed the viruses, and you felt better.

Not only do children get the cold virus. Adults, like your mom and dad, catch it, too.

Where does the virus come from?

When a person with a cold sneezes, tiny droplets containing the cold virus fly through the air and land on anyone who is nearby. The virus can enter the body through the mouth, nose, or eyes. Because the virus is invisible, you never know when you get it.

Having a cold is no fun. But medicine, loving care, and rest can make you feel better.

Other viruses can make you more ill than the cold virus does. Measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and polio viruses also try to invade your body.

Before you were two years old a doctor or nurse gave you a special vaccination shot. The vaccine made your fighter cells so strong they could chase away the measles, mumps, or rubella virus. The vaccine made you immune. That means the virus could not make you ill.

Several years ago, doctors discovered a new virus: the HIV, or AIDS virus, which can cause AIDS. What happens when a person has the virus?

First HIV stays in the cells without doing harm. The person remains healthy.

Later, HIV multiplies and begins attacking fighter cells. That can make these people a little sick. They have ARC.

Finally, HIV kills many fighter cells. Without fighter cells, the body has no protection against harmful microorganisms. Bacteria, fungi, and common viruses can make these people ill with dangerous diseases. These people have AIDS.

It is important to learn about HIV. You will be glad to know that children almost never get this virus.

You do not catch it from a person's sneeze the way you catch the cold virus. No one gets AIDS from being around people or from touching them. You can't pick up HIV from things you share from others.

Usually, the AIDS virus cannot enter our body through the skin. It has to find other ways to get into the blood.

Let's find out how this can happen.

There are people who use illegal drugs. Some inject these dangerous drugs into the body with a needle. They share the needle with other drug users. If one of the drug users has AIDS, the virus could be in the blood that is on the needle. The next person who uses that needle may inject the AIDS virus into his or her own body.

There is another way HIV can get inside a person's body and into the blood - from body fluid.

When people have sex, body fluid can go from one person to the other. If one of the two people has HIV the tiny virus can slide with the body fluid inside the other person. From there, HIV finds its way into the blood.

As you get older, you may have questions about sex. Ask a parent, teacher, or another adult you trust for answers.

Young children do not catch HIV as long as they do not inject illegal drugs and do not have sex.

But ... haven't you heard about children who have AIDS?

Doctors will tell you that you can play with a child who has AIDS. You can swim in the same pool, visit each other's house, watch a movie, share toys, and enjoy snacks together. You can even share funny secrets with a friend who has AIDS.

Some babies are born with HIV. They were infected with the virus from their mothers who have AIDS. Babies with AIDS are often sick, and may need hospital care. Some die when they are still little. But as doctors and nurses keep learning about the virus, they are able to help more children survive longer.

Doctors and nurses are doing their best to make people with AIDS feel better when they are sick. But there is no medicine yet that kills the AIDS virus. Because there is no cure, adults and children with AIDS die.

In hospitals and laboratories, doctors and scientists are working hard to find medicine that will heal all AIDS-infected people.

Years ago, people suffered and died from measles, mumps, polio, and other serious diseases caused by viruses. The scientists found vaccines to protect everyone.

Today scientists are searching again. This time they are determined to find a vaccine that will make us immune to AIDS.

For now, understanding how HIV is spread can take away our fear of catching it. We can enjoy having a friend with AIDS because we know it is safe to play together, to hug each other, and to share funny secrets.

Adapted from Children and the AIDS Virus by Rosmarie Hausherr.